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Trail Running Essentials

Trail runner stood on a rock ledge outdoors in Vancouver

By Melissa Offner

If you’re hoping to hit the trails and try trail running for the very first time this year, let’s make sure that you head out the door with all the necessary equipment to make your first trail expedition a fun and safe one.

Unlike road running, trail running requires a little more preparation and gear. The simple reason being that anything can happen while out in nature. And just like a hiker would, having a small pack with essentials is key to being a successful trail runner. Whether you’re running alone or with a group, all trail runners should have the following essentials with them at all times.

Got Shoes?

Running on muddy, rocky and rooty terrain does require some special trail shoes, especially this time of year when the trails are either wet or covered in frost or snow. Having good grippy footwear that can also keep your feet dry, is not only important for comfort but also to avoid unwanted injuries. Other items to consider wearing are breathable, moisture-wicking layers and good running socks.

To Pack or Not To Pack?

If you’re heading out on a lengthier jaunt, bringing a hydration pack or vest is a necessity. Not only does it help with storing all of your safety essentials and snacks, it also serves as a way to carry your water. Ideally, you want to be drinking 500 ml of water per hour you spend out on the trails. Handheld bottles or waist belts might work in big parks located in urban centres but aren’t enough for longer treks in the woods because you never can predict how long you’ll be out there for. Simple things like a wrong turn, a lengthier pitstop or worse, an unforeseen injury, can dramatically change the length of time you’ll be out in nature for.


In addition to bringing loads of water, it’s also important to also pack some snacks with you. Whether you’re a fan of gels, energy bars, trail butter, cookies, etc., the best thing is to plan for roughly 100 – 200 calories of nutrition per hour of running. Electrolytes are also key; they can be found in blocks or hydration mixes. They will help avoid cramping and will keep your energy and hydration levels up.

How about safety?

Some of the trail running safety essentials are very similar to those needed for hiking. Items like a headlamp, hat, space blanket (in case you have to spend the night out on the trails), map, whistle, small knife, emergency firestarter, extra layers of clothing, water filter or purification tablets, first aid kit and plastic ziplock bags to keep IDs, phone, money and your map dry, are all things you should have in your pack.


Though not mandatory, using technology and “gadgets” can potentially be a great asset while trail running. A running watch with an integrated GPS and a portable phone charger are great tools. But the one piece of technology that should never be forgotten is your cell phone. A little tip: running with your phone on airplane mode can help preserve that precious battery life.

Other things to consider:

  • Sunscreen – it may be winter, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a burnt if you’re out on the trails.
  • Lube – to prevent chafing; it can be put in between your toes or your legs and under your arms.
  • Poles – if you’re heading out on more alpine terrain, they could definitely be useful especially for your descent.

Now that you’ve got your trail running pack ready, go out there and have the best time exploring your local trails!

Melissa Offner is a Writer, TV and Podcast Host, and an all around expert in travel and the outdoors. She loves surfing, running, fitness, health and wellness, and the ocean! To learn more, follow her adventures on instagram or visit

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